Hannah Overton, a Corpus Christi homemaker and mother of five, was convicted of capital murder in 2007 for the death Andrew Burd, the four-year-old boy she and her husband were in the process of adopting. Andrew died on October 3, 2006, in a rare and mystifying case of salt poisoning, which prosecutors said resulted from Hannah force-feeding the boy salt as punishment for bad behavior. In September 2014, her conviction was overturned due to missteps by both the prosecution and defense.
In her January 2012 story, “Hannah and Andrew,” executive editor Pamela Colloff investigated how Hannah went from being widely considered a loving mother to portrayed as a cold-blooded killer by the prosecution. Colloff details Hannah’s relationship with Andrew, the strange circumstances surrounding his death, and the erroneous conclusions drawn by investigators and the prosecution. In a dramatic trial, prosecutors portrayed Hannah as an overwhelmed parent who poisoned Andrew, a difficult child who had been destructive earlier that day.
Multiple inconsistencies and errors plagued the state’s case against Hannah. Rather than being force-fed salt, evidence strongly suggests Andrew had undiagnosed pica, a condition known to develop among foster children that’s characterized by the consumption of non-food items and other inappropriate substances. Analysis of the contents of Andrew’s stomach, which were not presented at trial, indicate Andrew likely ingested too much salt on his own earlier that day. It also seemed extraordinary that Hannah, who was six months pregnant and suffering from whiplash after a recent car accident, would be able to force Andrew to consume a lethal 23 teaspoons of salt. Additionally, a plausible motive was lacking, as Hannah could have simply terminated the adoption if she felt Andrew was too much to handle.
In February 2012, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ordered evidentiary hearings on Hannah’s behalf, which took place over six days in April 2014. After seven years in prison and a hard-fought battle by appellate attorney Cynthia Orr, the criminal appeals court overturned Hannah’s conviction, citing ineffective counsel and an unfair trial. In her 17-page ruling, Judge Lawrence Myers faulted Hannah’s lawyers for failing to put pica expert Michael Moritz on the stand. In her concurrence, Judge Cathy Cochran noted the prosecution’s numerous improprieties, including allegations that the lead prosecutor may have not shared potentially exculpatory evidence with the defense.
Nueces County dismissed the capital murder charges against her in April 2015.
Capital Murder Case Against Hannah Overton Dismissed
Nine years after Hannah Overton’s nightmarish journey through the criminal justice system began, it ended just as abruptly.
Hannah Overton Will Be Home For Christmas
Corpus Christi Mother of Five Released on Bond.
The Guilty and the Innocent
Pamela Colloff on holding prosecutors accountable.
Hannah Overton’s Capital Murder Conviction Is Overturned
And now the Nueces County DA must decide whether to retry her.
Hannah Overton’s Day in Court
The Corpus Christi mother convicted of murdering her four-year-old foster son has maintained her innocence for eight years, and she finally had a chance to plead her case to Texas’s highest criminal court.
Hannah Overton Hearing: Day Four
David Jones, one of Overton’s defense attorneys during her 2007 trial, broke down on the stand.
Hannah Overton Hearing: Day Three
Ex-prosecutor Sandra Eastwood is put on the hot seat and questioned about whether or not she withheld critical evidence from the defense.
Hannah Overton Hearing: Day Two
The leading salt poisoning expert testified on the second day of Overton’s hearing.
The Hannah Overton Hearing: Day One
Executive Editor Pamela Colloff reports from Nueces County, where testimony in the Hannah Overton hearing focused on scientific evidence supporting the Corpus Christi homemaker’s claims of innocence.
Hannah Overton’s Case Will be Examined Again
The Court of Criminal Appeals ordered a lower court to examine claims of innocence by the Corpus Christi mother of five, who was charged with capital murder nearly six years ago.
Hannah and Andrew
On October 3, 2006, a four-year-old boy named Andrew Burd died in a Corpus Christi hospital. The cause of death was determined to be salt poisoning, an extremely unusual occurrence. Even more shocking was what happened next: his foster mother, Hannah Overton, was found guilty of killing him. But could she really have done what the prosecutors say?